As our Vestry has been exploring the spiritual practice of evangelism, we have been doing some self-work. This week we focused on the work of compassion. David Gortner, in Transforming Evangelism, says, “Compassion is not pity, but the recognition of another person’s full humanity, warts and all.” Our Vestry talked about our experiences of seeing others show compassion, but also how hard compassion can be to express – especially when people hurt us.
Our conversation reminded me of this blog entry I saw recently. As a Long Island Driver, I totally get this story. I have been yelled at many a time since moving here – and to be fair, I have expressed my own impatience at times, but hopefully never in such an extreme way. What I love about this blog post though is that this is the ultimate example of seeing with compassion. In that moment, that mom was able to see the other driver’s full humanity – in a way that probably Christ sees us every day, but in a way that we rarely take the time to see. This kind of compassion does not come naturally – especially when someone is yelling expletives in our face. But when that compassion was shown, both drivers were transformed – transformed by God’s love.
I have been thinking we could all use a little more compassion lately. As our Congress has derailed an entire section of our economy and as we have been raging about whatever side is not “our side,” I think compassion has been long gone. I include myself in that omission. I found myself this week literally yelling at the radio as I heard one of the Representatives explaining why her party is doing the right thing. And the whole situation makes me so angry that I am not sure I could even sit in the same room with these Representatives as they attempt to find a solution. But thinking about that driver at Starbucks and thinking about our Vestry’s conversation about compassion, I have been wondering how Christ sees this whole debate. I have my own sense of what position Jesus would take on all this (though I won’t share that here), but I also know that Jesus is fully capable of loving both sides and seeing the humanity in all the people involved. Of course, that does not make the situation any easier or my frustration any lessened, but it does take the edge off my raging anger a bit.
Perhaps that small bit is all I can ask for now. Perhaps that small glimpse into compassion is enough to shift my way of being and interacting with others. Perhaps that first step is all that Jesus needs to begin the slow conversion of each of us toward a life of compassion.